So we got up early and went down to eat, even though we technically had more time to sleep today. Our schedule was going to be fairly low key, and since this was our last full day in Ireland (BOO) we wanted to enjoy as much of it as we could!
My mother had bought me a really pretty sweater from a boutique in Athens so that I could take it on this trip. It's not something I'd have ever picked out on my own (mainly because I'm an adult woman who doesn't know how to properly dress herself) but it's long, it has a fringy bit around the bottom, and the back has a panel of inset lace right in the back. I really like it. I call it my Coachella sweater, because it's hipper than pretty much all of my other clothes. People from our group kept stopping me and petting the sweater, and telling me how beautiful it was and asking me if I'd bought it while we had been in Ireland. I guess it was the lace? I have no idea, but it happened so often that it started to get silly. I kept telling everyone that it was bought in Athens, Alabama, but who knows if they believed me.
We didn't have far to go today, really, as our two destinations were in Galway. We first stopped at King John's Castle, which was located right on the River Shannon. King John's Castle is a legit castle, built by the King John that we know from the Robin Hood stories (although he was never there, apparently) in the 13th century. It was a major fortress that had kept control over the area for centuries. It had been turned into a museum that actually reminded me a lot of Constitution Hall Village in Huntsville. It was a neat museum that explained the history of the area and what had happened during the castle siege. There was even an archeological dig going on underneath the building where they found some old viking house foundations. It was fun, but it seemed more like it was designed for children than for adults. There were some costumed characters around who had to stay in character, but I did not engage. I didn't need bored teenagers forsoothing at me!
King John's Castle is behind our big heads
The courtyard at King John's Castle, and the River Shannon, the slowest river in Ireland.
No offense. I'm sure it goes as fast as it can.
Our next destination was described to me as Ireland's Colonial Williamsburg, called Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. It really was like Colonial Williamsburg, in that there were costumed characters (although thankfully they didn't always stay in character,) and it had recreated an area of houses, a blacksmith shop, and things like that, all with the big castle (not a recreation) on one end of the property. Des, our tour guide, was going to give a tour of the place himself to anyone interested in going along. Steve and I were going to go, but the first thing the group voted on was to immediately eat. I wasn't hungry and didn't want to waste time sitting and watching other people eat, so I split off from the group to explore on my own.
I actually came across the same guy I'd walked around with at Blarney Castle and Cork, so we walked a ways together and looked at the mills and the animals. I lost him at some point while I was taking pictures, so I ended up wandering around the place alone, which was fine. I went at my own pace and asked questions if I had them. It was a beautiful day, so it was a very nice walk. I actually made it over to the castle at the same time as Steve's tour group, so I joined them during the first part of that tour. Bunratty Castle was a 15th century stronghold for the O'Brien Clan. I say that like I can explain it, but I can't. It was another big-ass castle, though! Also, I learned that William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, once lived there for some time. Use that info for whatever you want. Maybe you'll need it for trivia one of these days!
Sheeps! I tried talking to them, but they never answered me. Maybe they don't speak English.
Bunratty Castle! It was very tall. Yea, verily.
This castle really was huge, and when we walked inside, we ended up in this big room filled with tables. Apparently they hold medieval-style dinners there (like Medieval Times, maybe?) but it had once been the main room that soldiers had chilled out in. There was another tour guide (not Des) that told us about the room and what went on in there. Several members of our group sat down at a long table that ran up one side of the room while he was talking, and in the process of telling us what the room was for, he pointed to out table and said "And that table right there is over 500 years old!" Every single person leaned back from it in unison. The guide didn't care, though, because apparently it is still used as a table. If it had been someplace in the States, we would have never been allowed to get near it, much less sit down at it! I hope no one scratched it. I stayed with the tour until it disbanded. I lost Steve while I was climbing up to the top of the castle, but this time I didn't make it up the spiral staircase. I couldn't! I don't know if it was the lack of windows, or the knowledge that I was climbing so high, but I had to come down. I wish I'd seen the view from the top, but otherwise I don't care a bit. I'm not going to risk my mental health just to see a view. I did that once at the San Jacinto monument in Texas and almost ran down some old ladies trying to get down from the top!
I walked back to the main gift shop and looked around for a bit. There are so many pretty things in Ireland. I had to exercise my self control not to bring back one of everything! :) I did happen to notice that just up from the castle was a Blarney Woolen Mill store, just like the one that had been at the hotel we'd stayed at earlier, so I was able to go in an buy the thing I'd forgotten before. It was yarn, ok, yarn! I couldn't help it! I needed some! You'll be proud to know that I didn't buy a case of it, though, only three skeins, and I will not make a hat out of any of it! So there, I bought yarn while in Ireland. It is very nice wool yarn. :)
It had started to rain again by the time I made it back to the castle and folk park. I went to the coffee shop and bought myself the last thing I had on my "must eat" list, which was a scone. I've made scones before, but the ones I made don't look like the ones here. So I bought a fruit scone, with cream and jam, and it was delicious. It was really just a fancy biscuit with raisins in it, but it was good! Afterwards I stayed in the gift shop and wound up buying some kind of skin cream in hopes it would help my faux leprosy issue. It smells weird, but I'm willing to try anything at this point. Not long after the group came through and we got back on the coach to go to the hotel for a bit. We were supposed to return to Bunratty for one of the medieval meals, but as it turned out we wouldn't be doing that. Instead we would be having some Traditional Irish Food and Folk Dancing. I thought we'd already done that bit, but I guess you can't have enough of that, really!
When we got back to the hotel, the little girl dancers had pretty much gone rogue. They were everywhere, and they were absolutely not supervised at all. I don't think I saw one parent with any of the roving, screaming groups of children that ran through the place. This didn't bode well. We got cleaned up and changed for dinner, and we sat down at the bottom of the stairs while we waited for it to be time to leave. The dancer girls came in and out of the area, and then a a grown up, adult woman walked down the stairs, and y'all...she was pretty much naked. I mean, she was wearing a dress, sort of. It was like two scarves tied around her shoulders and crossed across her chest (although she had some severe boobage hanging out all around) but that was about it. It was cut down to her navel, cut up to her armpits, and if she had turned too sharply, that whole stairwell would have been her gynecologist. Of course I stared, how could I help but stare? As it turned out, she had something to do with the dance competition going on, so that mostly naked lady was in the same place as the little girls. I have no idea what the hell is going on in this hotel!!!!!
We made it back to the Bunratty Corn Barn, where our dinner was going to be served. We were immediately given alcohol. Like, literally, before we walked into the door I was given a glass of mead. It was sweet, and it tasted fine, but I was being careful. We were all seated family-style around long tables, and there was a stage along the front of the room. This show was so much fun to watch! We saw some of the same kind of dancing that we saw earlier in the week while in Howth, but there was traditional singing, a small band with a violinist, guitarist, and a, uh, squeezy box lady (sorry, I don't know what they are properly called!), and 4 step dancers! It was just a lot of fun to watch and listen to, and we had some really delicious, simple, traditional food. We had a great time tonight! It didn't seem to last as long as I would have thought, but it might have been because there were no breaks in between the acts and the food and things.
Once we got back to the hotel, we finally had to start getting things organized for the trip home. We were lucky that neither Steve nor I had over packed (for the first time ever) so we had no trouble getting my sweaters packed away! Yay! We pretty much packed everything except for the essentials, because tomorrow morning we have a 3:30 AM wake up call so we can go back to Dublin to catch our flight. We weren't supposed to have such an early start, because we originally were supposed to fly out of the Shannon Airport which was very close to where we were staying, but apparently Delta stopped flying out of Shannon after we'd already organized the trip, so back to Dublin we must go. Bleh. That's a long trip before another long trip! Oh, well, what can we do?
So now it's time to get some sleep. The little bastard children are running up and down the halls and knocking on doors on our floor tonight. Just a minute ago I heard an argument between two people, one of which is a dance mom, I think. I don't know what the Irish equivalent to trailer trash is, but I'm pretty sure one of those people out there fits the bill. Oy, vey. I just want to get some sleep before we have to get up again.
But bastard children aside, I have had an amazingly wonderful trip! I'm so glad I got to come to Ireland!!!!